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Lee Isaac Chung
Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan S. Kim
Writing Credits:
Lee Isaac Chung

A Korean family starts a farm in 1980s Arkansas.

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Korean/English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 115 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 5/18/2021

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Lee Isaac Chung and Actor Yuh-Jung Youn
• “Sowing Seeds” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Preview


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Minari [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 2, 2021)

One of 2020’s Oscar Best Picture nominees, Minari offers an unusual view of the American experience. Set in the 1980s, the film focuses on the Yi family.

A Korean clan, father Jacob (Steven Yeun) moves the Yis from California to Arkansas. There he hopes to grow produce to sell to businesses in Dallas.

Inevitably, complications arise. In addition to the challenges related to farming, the Yis deal with cultural issues that make their journey complex.

I saw four of the eight 2020 Best Picture nominees theatrically. Three never made it to my local multiplex, so they didn’t become available for me in that setting.

Then there’s Minari, a flick that did show at my area movie complex, but one that I couldn’t bring myself to see. While I can probably think of some topics that seem less compelling to me than “Korean family raises produce in Arkansas”, few occur to me right now.

With Minari on Blu-ray, I figured I’d give it a shot, though. Potentially boring movies seem less daunting in the home venue, so despite my qualms, into my BD player the disc went.

On the positive side, I can’t call Minari “boring”, as it presents a reasonably engaging character drama. Writer/director Lee Isaac Chung based the story on events from his own childhood, and we find a moderately interesting view of these experiences.

But only moderately, as Minari hits the mark on a sporadic basis. In particular, when the tale focuses on Jacob and wife Monica (Yeri Han), it tends to falter.

I suspect this comes because Chung attempts to channel the lives of his parents despite the fact he was too young to understand them 40 or so years ago. Minari gives Jacob and Monica a dramatic arc but the movie doesn’t explore the roles in a particularly deep or meaningful manner.

As such, Jacob and Monica fall into fairly trite spots. We get Jacob the dreamer and Monica the realist, choices that seem less than creative.

On the more positive side, Minari sparks to life when it follows young David (Alan S. Kim) and his grandmother Soonja (Yuh-Jung Youn). David acts as an obvious stand-in for Chung himself, and this closer personal connection to the part allows for Chung to depict the roles and relationships in a more natural and winning manner than with the others.

Granted, some of the Soonja/David material feels predictable, especially because David initially resents/dislikes his grandmother but inevitably they develop a bond. Still, these scenes offer a warmth and charm absent from too much of the rest of the film.

Ultimately, Chung finds his way to the heart of the material when it most closely represents what he knows best: the child’s POV. When he broadens to the adults, he lacks the appropriate insight.

None of these factors turn Minari into a bad movie, as even at its weakest, it remains perfectly competent. However, its lack of consistency makes it a film that only sporadically achieves its goals.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Minari appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie offered a positive visual impression.

Overall definition seemed positive. Virtually no softness materialized, so the movie appeared accurate and concise.

I noticed no signs of jaggies or edge enhancement, and shimmering was absent. The film lacked print flaws and seemed clean.

In terms of colors, Minari went for a modest teal and orange tint. These appeared fine within the film’s stylistic choices.

Blacks seemed dark and tight, and shadows demonstrated good clarity. This added up to a satisfying presentation.

A character drama wouldn’t seem to be a candidate for a whiz-bang soundtrack, and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Minari fell into expected realms. Usually the track remained oriented toward ambience, so don’t expect lots of sizzle from the mix.

A few scenes opened up a bit, such as when a thunderstorm threatened. Not much immersive material emerged, though, as this remained a quiet character tale.

Audio quality satisfied. Music was full and rich, while effects showed nice clarity and accuracy.

Speech – obviously an important factor here – appeared concise and crisp. Nothing here soared, but it all seemed perfectly adequate for the project.

A few extras pop up on the Blu-ray, and these launch with an audio commentary from writer/director Lee Isaac Chung and actor Yuh-Jung Youn. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion of story/characters, autobiographical elements, cast and performances, sets and locations, and related domains.

The commentary starts fairly slowly but it improves as it goes, largely because the bubbly Youn offers an engaging personality. While never a great chat, we find a mostly likable piece after that lackluster beginning.

Sowing Seeds runs 13 minutes, 25 seconds and offers notes from Chung, Youn, producer Christina Oh, executive producer/actor Steven Yeun, casting director Julia Kim, production designer Young Ok Lee, costume designer Susanna Song, and actors Alan Kim and Yeri Han.

“Seeds” looks at the film’s story/characters and autobiographical elements, cast and performances, set design and period details, photography and costumes. A little too much praise occurs, but we get a fairly good overview of the production.

Two Deleted Scenes span a total of three minutes, 18 seconds. The first shows Jacob as he teaches the kids about his job, while the second gives us more of Paul’s dinner at the Yi home. Neither seems important.

The disc opens with an ad for First Cow. No trailer for Minari appears here.

A semi-fictionalized exploration of the filmmaker’s childhood, Minari scores when it depicts his first-person experiences. When the film broadens, though, it becomes less effective. The Blu-ray offers excellent picture along with generally positive audio and a few bonus materials. This turns into a watchable drama but not one that consistently connects.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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